The Archaeological site of ancient Olympia in Greece
Ancient Olympia, was situated on the Peloponnese peninsula in Greece. The site was a major pan hellenic religious sanctuary of ancient Greece, where the Olympic games were held. The sanctuary was dedicated to Zeus. Although secluded near the west coast of Peloponnese, Olympia Greece became the most important athletic center in ancient times.
The earliest finds in Olympia are located on the southern foot of mount Kronios. At this point the first sanctuaries and prehistoric cults were established. It is believed that in approximately 1200 BC the region of Olympia was settled by Aetolians, who founded the state of Elis. The first sanctuary dedicated to local and pan hellenic deities was established at the end of Mycenaean period. The Altis , with its oaks, planes, pines and olive trees was formed during the 10th and the 9th century B.C.. During the Archaic period the monumental buildings were constructed , like the temple of Hera, the Prytaneion, the Bouleuterion, the treasuries and the first stadium. The sanctuary continued to flourish during the Classical period when the enormous temple of Zeus, baths, treasuries, ancillary buildings were erected and the stadium moved outside the Altis. During Roman period some of the existing buildings were refurbished and new ones were built. In 776 B.C. the king of Elis Iphitos, Kleosthenes of Pisa and Lykourgos of Sparta organized the Olympic games in honour of Zeus and instituted the sacred Ekecheiria, and soon the sporting games had a national character.
The last Olympic games were held in 393 A.D. when the emperor Theodosius prohibited all pagan festivals. In 426 A.D. Theodosius the 2nd ordered the destruction of the sanctuary. In the middle of 5th century A.D. the workshop of Pheidias was transformed into a Christian church. In 551 A.D. due to the earthquakes the temple of Zeus were buried.
In 1829 the French Scientific Expedition excavated the temple of Zeus and in 1875 the German Archaeological institute began systematic excavation that continues till today. Many monuments of the archaeological site are currently under restoration. Olympia is the birthplace of the most famous sporting event of the ancient world. The Olympic games took place , every four years from 776 B.C. to 393 A.D. and were representing peace and the nobility of competition. The modern Olympic games are the world’s most important sporting event and they have their basis in Olympia. Olympia was the place where remarkable works of art and culture were dedicated to the god Zeus. At the site and the museum of ancient Olympia you will find the sculptures from the decoration of the temple of Zeus, the famous Hermes of Praxiteles and the statue of Nike of Paionios.
You can visit Olympia any time of the year. However the best period to visit the archaeological site and its natural environment is in spring. From late April to October the site and the museum are open daily during the daylight hours. From November to March the entrance tickets for the site and the museum are at the half price.